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Understanding Methamphetamine Abuse and Addiction

Methamphetamine is a manmade drug that affects brain function. Over time, it can change the way you think and act. Some of these changes can cause you great distress. And they can disrupt your life. But methamphetamine addiction can be treated. If you or a loved one has a drug problem, tell someone you trust. That is the first step in getting help.

Illegal drugs being weighed on scale.

What does methamphetamine do?

Some drugs slow down your system. But methamphetamine speeds it up. In fact, methamphetamine is often known as “speed.” Users have increased energy. Some may go days without food or sleep. The drug comes in many forms that users inject, smoke, inhale, or eat. Methamphetamine causes an intense rush that may last from minutes to hours.

What are the risks?

Methamphetamine triggers your brain to release large amounts of the chemical dopamine. This causes feelings of extreme well being. It may also damage the cells that produce dopamine. This can make it harder to feel pleasure over time. Using methamphetamine may also lead to these problems:

  • Addiction. This means you develop a strong physical and psychological dependence on the drug. And you may not be able to stop taking it on your own. A potent form of methamphetamine known as “ice” or "crystal meth" is even more addictive.

  • Overdose. You may need more and more methamphetamine to feel good. But taking too much can lead to seizures or death.

  • Exposure to HIV. Using shared needles to inject methamphetamine can spread the virus that causes AIDS.

  • Hallucinations (hearing and seeing things that aren’t there).

  • Paranoia (intense feelings of fear of other people).

  • Violent action

  • Bleeding in the brain

  • Severe dental problems

How can you get help?

In many cases your health care provider can help. Or, check your phone book or the Internet for mental health centers and drug treatment programs. You can also try the resources below.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Helpline  800-662-4357 (HELP) 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse  888-644-6432 

Crystal Meth Anonymous 855-638-4373 


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